14/09/2016 11:30 BST | Updated 15/09/2017 06:12 BST

The Guilt Of Rest

Winston Churchill credited the clarity of his mind (which led him to wartime victory) to power naps. Yesterday, I took a nap in the afternoon. I had always felt that taking a nap is the most decadent and meaningless activity on this planet. Or so my guilt-ridden brain told me. It has taken a lot of time and persuasion to convince me that a little midday shut-eye sometimes is not only ok, but actually really good for me!

If relaxing doesn't come easily to you either, think of it as a skill that you can learn and practice. But if you're going to invest in relaxing and enjoying down time, you first need to imbibe its benefits. It is well known that being well-rested lowers stress by decreasing abnormal levels of cortisol. That adequate rest helps you avoid energy slumps during the day. That rest boosts brain function and allows for better concentration and focus...the list of benefits goes on and on as you know! Despite knowing all of this, how many of us actually truly embrace rest time and allow ourselves to relax?

Too often, our culture assigns self-worth with productivity. We feel that time could be spent on something more worthwhile. When we are not working, we fill our time catching up on "life", doing that load of laundry, cleaning piled dishes, catching up on personal paperwork, checking emails and generally thinking about the gazillion errands that need to be run! Any of this sound familiar to you?

While it would be nice if there were a simple button to push that would help us ditch the guilt, sadly, human nature doesn't work like that. I think we make "rest" complicated and don't prioritise it until we get sick or burn out. But we really should not wait for it to get this late.

So how can we start relaxing and stop feeling guilty about it? I find that making small, incremental life changes is more realistic. Small changes also reduce the anxiety of taking rest breaks! Here are some ideas on how to make rest a part of your life:

Set Aside A Fixed Time For Rest And Guard It At All Costs!

Write "rest" into your schedule and treat it like an obligation. Just like other things on your to-do list, think of it like an imperative duty or chore, and it will then become more of a priority. It is a funny way to think about it, but it works. Make sure this includes a digital break! Being connected 24/7 and checking emails, Twitter, Facebook, blog stats, etc., for updates every 10-15 minutes is both overwhelming and exhausting.

Start Your Day Mindfully

The way you approach your morning can often set the tone for the day ahead. Try to wake up 15 minutes earlier each day. That way, you have that "me-time" to start each day by calmly looking ahead at what's on your plate and what needs to get done. Rather than starting your day with urgency jumping right to e-mails or rushing to get your morning routine on the way.

Go to a Spa

What's not to like about a serene atmosphere and beautiful surroundings, fluffy white robes and iced cucumber water? Spending an afternoon at a health spa is incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating (not to mention you come out glowing with silky soft skin). Plus, it's something you'll always be looking forward to when it's on the horizon.

Take a Vacation

There's no better way to unwind like a vacation. It's good for your health, it's inspiring, it's fun, it's relaxing and stimulating, and at the same time there are so many benefits. While booking ourselves into a 7 day silent meditation retreat in foothills of the Himalayas right off the bat is the ultimate unplugged-and-detached-from-life-experience, rarely can many of us afford to take bulk holiday, let alone drop a few thousand pounds and travel to distant lands (although this is a great way to detox and break bad habits). It doesn't have to be long or far away, but regular vacations expose you to new things and give you a chance to decompress.

Take a Career Break

Burnout from the stress of work is something many of us have felt at some point in our careers. Stepping off the treadmill of working life for a while can be a way of enhancing personal and professional development, not to mention it can help recharge batteries. Take a "grown-up" gap year and travel, learn a new language or sport, paint, sit some professional exams, volunteer...anything, as long as you make it all about you! People who have had a career break often return with a more positive outlook and enhanced skill set. This applies both to employees and the self-employed.

Even though it is known that rest is beneficial to our bodies, minds, and souls, finding that balance between work and relaxation is a struggle for many. You will see that the spill-over benefits of your rest and downtime will eventually teach you to overcome your guilt. You will then wonder, how did I manage without it? It just takes a little while to get there. Make a beginning. Start slow. Start now.